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A “Poetry-Fueled War”
Dickinson and Whitman are sometimes taken as the only “interesting” poets of the war years. Is the broad range of Civil War poetry underappreciated by contemporary scholars?
Edmund Wilson was very influential in dismissing this work as “versified journalism.” … It’s also the case that scholars were reluctant to approach this body of work because the “But is it any good?” question persists much more strongly with poetry than it does with prose texts. If we pick up the dime novels that were written in the Civil War era, the political thrillers about female spies, we don’t expect those works to have the kind of narrative or linguistic complexity of Moby-Dick, but we still find them interesting and worthy of study.
Immediately read Ruth Graham’s interview with Faith Barrett on the question of Civil War poetry. Then, on a tangential note, read this poem by Daniel Day-Lewis’ dad, who is not really Abraham Lincoln’s dad, whatever your eyes may tell you. And maybe Allen Tate’s “Ode to the Confederate Dead”, which is a superb poem, even if Allen Tate was a tool.